Domestic Violence Law Fuels Big Government

A chance for gender sanity is coming. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expires in 2005 and www.vawnet.org/Funding/FVPS/VAWAApprop.pdf [.pdf] a new appropriation request for over www.house.gov/budget_democrats/pres_budgets/fy2004/fy04update/fy2005/harmful_cuts.htm $360 million will soon hit Congress. VAWA is based on gender myths, anti-male bias and an infatuation with Big Government. The answer to renewing this Clinton hand-me-down should be a thundering “NO!”

What is VAWA? In 1994, Congress passed VAWA as part of an Omnibus Crime Bill. www.ojp.usdoj.gov/vawo/laws/vawa/vawa.htm The Act pitted the sexes against each other by focusing on “crimes of violence motivated by gender"; victims were defined as female and only women were offered the massive tax-funded benefits. VAWA institutionalized the political belief that women, as a class, must receive special protection from men and privileges from government.

www.papa-help.ch/downloads/kelly.pdf [.pdf] Domestic violence (DV) was a specific focus. When male victims protested their exclusion, VAWA advocates dismissed them as statistically insignificant.

Today, www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm an impressive body of research shows that men constitute anywhere from 36% to 50% of DV victims. (The situation is similar with rape. Women are the victims only if you exclude prisons where male rape is prevalent.)

But VAWA is more than an attempt to establish women as a protected class at the expense of men. If this were its only flaw, then including men under its umbrella would have solved the Act’s unfairness.

The Act seeks to create new gender attitudes through the social engineering of society. The most aggressive example was also VAWA’s biggest failure to date: namely, its attempt to revise the judiciary system in order to benefit women.

A key section of VAWA ’94 allowed a “rape” victim to sue her alleged attacker for compensatory and punitive damages in federal civil court on the grounds of having violated her civil rights. The federal claim did not replace criminal punishment on the state level; it was a supplement.

In 1995, Christy Brzonkala brought a federal lawsuit over an alleged rape at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The two accused men had been cleared by both a university judicial committee and a criminal grand jury. Under VAWA, however, Brzonkala could pursue a case that was too weak to be admitted into criminal court.cyber.law.harvard.edu/events/vaw/ The U.S. Supreme Court found VAWA’s civil rights remedies and access to federal courts to be unconstitutional.

VAWA 2000 was rewritten to exclude the unconstitutional bits and to broaden the Act’s mandate to areas such as “Strengthening Education and Training to Combat Violence Against Women.”

In short, to change society’s attitudes on gender through education, research, and training programs. The underlying ideological bias is illustrated by the fact that, after spending millions of dollars on DV research, VAWA advocates couldn’t seem to find male victims. Or, if they did, the data did not induce them to rename the Violence Against Women Act.

VAWA’s attempt to educate new attitudes on gender into society has contributed to what some call “the domestic violence industry.” www.massnews.com/past_issues/other/8_Aug/domviin.htm The Massachusetts News offers a glimpse into the programs in its state. “Every month, it [the woman’s safety movement]…spawns new sub-programs, clinics, shelters, research institutes, counseling centers, visitation centers, poster campaigns. The state disbursed about $24 million for domestic violence services last year, but that certainly is not all the money spent… “

Women’s “safety” has become a tax-funded growth industry for lawyers, consultants, researchers, staff, counselors, professors and other “experts” who always seem to conclude that more funding is needed.

VAWA advocates point to the Act’s funding of DV shelters, and it is difficult to argue against helping a battered woman. It is not clear, however, that the bureaucratic and “industrialized” approach to DV is an effective form of help. Every dollar spent on ideological programs is a dollar snatched from a victim. Moreover, the ideology blinds VAWA advocates to many real victims. The Massachusetts News also reports that the state has 37 tax-funded women's shelters, but no “shelters or services for men”, except homosexual men.

Battle lines on VAWA 2005 have been drawn. A prominent www.mensactivism.org/articles/04/12/19/0019245.shtml men’s rights site claims, “According to inside sources, the Washington Post is about to launch its publicity campaign to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).” The referenced campaign is the Post’s recent and www.slate.com/Default.aspx?id=2111390& heavily criticized front-page series on the www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2004/1229.html murder of expectant mothers by intimates. The Post, a supporter of past VAWAs, is accused of trying to create fear in women and sustain the image of a DV victim as being female.

The accusation is lent credibility by www.now.org/nnt/fall-2017/vawa.html the National Organization for Women, which states of the Post series, “In compelling detail” it “exposes the extent of murder and violence directed at pregnant women and new mothers in the U.S. NOW and our allies will be paying special attention to these needs as the Violence Against Women Act is up for reauthorization.”

Unfortunately, many VAWA opponents are focusing on www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2004/1229blumhorst.html the inclusion of men within the Act rather than on its defeat. At the Men’s Rights Congress 2004, speaker Dave Burroughs www.trueequality.com/booklet/ recommended, “The re-authorization…should be re-titled to the Intimate Partners Violence Act” and funding should “encompass sheltering and services for all victims of domestic violence regardless of their gender…”

VAWA is a fundamentally flawed piece of social engineering that appeals to Big Government. The proper response is not “Me Too!” It is a flat “no,” followed by an insistence on rethinking our entire approach to issues like DV.

©2007, Wendy McElroy

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Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including her latest book, Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century. She lives with her husband in Canada. E-Mail. Also, see her daily blog at www.zetetics.com/mac

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